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Eugenio Mira
Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bishé
Writing Credits:
Damien Chazelle

In the sights of an anonymous sniper, pianist Tom Selznick must get through the most difficult performance of his life and look for help without being detected.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $16.98
Release Date: 5/20/2014

• “The Making of Grand Piano” Featurette
• Interviews
• “Soundtrack” Featurette
• “Coaches” Featurette
• “Following Eugenio” Featurette
• “Stunts” Featurette
• “Wayne’s Shot” Featurette
• “Visual Effects” Featurette
&bull: “A Look at Grand Piano” Featurette
• Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Grand Piano [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 30, 2021)

For today’s Adventure in (Essentially) Direct-to-Video Flicks, we go to 2014’s Grand Piano. Classical pianist Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) establishes himself as the best performer of his generation. However, after a disastrous performance, crippling anxiety keeps him off the stage for years.

Tom eventually stages his comeback concert but encounters a major snag. As he starts to play, he finds a message attached to the score that warns he’ll die if he makes a single mistake. We follow the cat and mouse between Tom and Clem (John Cusack), the sniper who keeps the musician in his sights.

That’s a set-up we in the movie review business like to call “Hitchcockian” – which is also what someone could’ve said of 2003’s Phone Booth, a thriller with a not dissimilar premise. Perhaps the makers of Piano felt Booth happened long enough ago or wasn’t successful enough for viewers to make the connection, but it seems pretty clear to me.

Not that a semi-derivative notion disqualifies Piano from the potential to become a solid drama, of course. If I only wrote up “original stories”, I’d write maybe two or three reviews a year. Piano does throw a fun premise at us, so I hoped it’d deliver a satisfying, tense experience.

Which it occasionally does. On the positive side, I like that the movie doesn’t waste too much time before it tosses it into the main story.

We get appropriate amounts of exposition and backstory but we don’t find ourselves bogged down in needless material before we dig into the meat of the tale. That decision allows the flick to move at a better rate and keep us from losing interest too early.

However, once we get to the concert stage, the tale becomes spottier. That turns into a problem, as a) the majority of the film takes place there, and b) we expect the best drama there.

Some moments do manage reasonable tension and excitement, but the piece stretches credulity too much for us to really buy into the action.

I don’t find fault in the basic concept, but I encounter issues with the execution. The movie requires us to suspend disbelief too often and accept behavior that doesn’t make much sense.

In particular, the movie requires Tom to juggle too many figurative balls while he plays perfect piano – and also expects us to believe that he could talk on a phone while no one else hears him despite the intimacy of the venue. Those don’t become fatal flaws, but they detract from the movie’s potential.

I don’t quite buy Wood in the lead, either. He does an acceptable job, but bug-eyed and twitchy seems to be his standard mode, so he doesn’t have much room to grow as the tension escalates. He already starts at “11” on the “Anxious Meter” and doesn’t get to broaden past that.

Piano still has enough merit to make it a watchable little thriller, but it doesn’t elevate above that level. Though it does enough to capitalize on its premise to keep us with it, the movie never becomes anything memorable.

Footnote: because the credits start to roll with 12 minutes left in the film’s running time, one might suspect that a bonus scene appears. After all, Piano comes with a small cast, minimal sets and few effects concerns, so it can’t reveal 12 full minutes of credits, can it?

It can – and does, as we get one of the slowest credit crawls in movie history. All I can figure is that the filmmakers got a bonus if the film hit the 90-minute mark so they stretched the credits out way too long.

Come to think of it, the opening credits seem long, too. They give us three minutes, 45 seconds of text before any actual action starts. This leaves Piano as a film with roughly 74 minutes of story stretched to 90 minutes of running time.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Grand Piano appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a decent presentation but not a great one.

Some of the inconsistencies came from sharpness. Much of the movie exhibited good clarity and definition, but more than a few exceptions occurred, especially in wide shots.

No signs of jaggies and moiré effects occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. The image lacked any print flaws.

To fit its thriller genre, Piano went with a stylized palette. The movie tended toward a sickly green/blue, with a few other tones on display. These lacked impact but seemed adequate given design choices.

Blacks were fairly deep, while shadows showed reasonable delineation. Nothing here really flopped, but the image seemed less attractive than expected.

I felt more pleased with the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. It went for a fairly atmospheric air, as the mix gave us logical accompaniment for the visuals.

This meant music popped up around the room and became somewhat dominant while effects remained mostly in the environmental realm. The mix did give us a nice sense of the concert hall setting, and that managed to open up the material in a satisfying manner.

Audio quality was good. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues.

Music showed nice range and impact, while the effects were reasonably accurate. This became an acceptable mix for an atmospheric thriller.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio of the BD showed more range and warmth when compared to the lossy DVD mix.

In addition, the Blu-ray became better defined, with superior colors, blacks and shadows. Though not a great-looking product, the Blu-ray topped the blah DVD.

The Blu-ray repeats the DVD’s extras, and we launch with The Making of Grand Piano. It fills 16 minutes, 50 seconds with comments from producers Adrian Guerra and Rodrigo Cortes, director Eugenio Mira, writer Damien Chazelle, composer Victor Reyes, visual effects supervisor Alex Villagrasa, and actors Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bishe, Don McManus, Tamsin Egerton, and Allen Leech.

The program looks at how Mira came onto the project, story/character areas, cast and performances, music and Mira’s approach to the concert scenes, sets and effects, and a few other elements. Some of the usual happy talk appears here, but we get a good mix of notes, and the shots from the set add value.

Under Interviews we find sessions with director Eugenio Mira (13:8) and actor Elijah Wood (20:26). Mira covers what interested in him about the film, cast and performances, influences and stylistic choices, music, and the shooting of concerts.

Wood talks about the thriller genre and what appealed to him about the story, learning and filming piano sequences, co-stars and performances, aspects of the shoot, and thoughts about the movie.

Both segments work pretty well – surprisingly well in the case of Wood, as actor chats tend to be superficial. We learn a lot of nice details in these interviews.

A few more featurettes follow. Soundtrack goes for three minutes, 28 seconds and includes Mira and Reyes.

They talk about the movie’s music and the choreography of the concert scenes. We got a little about these subjects elsewhere, but “Soundtrack” delivers a bit more depth.

With the five-minute, one-second Coaches, we hear from Wood, McManus, piano instructor Hector Marquez, and instructor Tobias Gossman.

In these, we hear about the training required for the actors to perform their musical parts. This becomes a quick but useful program.

Following Eugenio runs four minutes, 56 seconds and features Wood, Guerra, Cortes, Bishe, McManus, and actor Alex Winter.

This one examines Mira’s work on the set. It gives us a decent sense of the director’s personality and skills.

During the four-minute, seven-second Stunts, we locate remarks from Mira, Cortes, Wood, Cusack, and stunt coordinator Ignacio Carreno.

To the surprise of no one, “Stunts” looks at the film’s stunts. This turns into another short but moderately useful piece.

Next we get Visual Effects. It occupies three minutes, 26 seconds with details from Villagrasa, as he covers his contributions to the “virtual concert hall” and other visual elements. Some of this showed up earlier, but a few new details emerge.

In the four-minute, 33-second Wayne’s Shot, we hear from Cortes, Mira, and Villagrasa. The featurette examines one specific long sequence. With the addition of a glimpse at the animatic, the piece gives us a good overview.

AXS TV: A Look at Grand Piano fills two minutes, 52 seconds and features Wood and Mira. This acts as promotion and little else.

The disc opens with ads for Nymphomaniac, Stage Fright and The Protector. No trailer for Piano appears here.

While it comes with potential, Grand Piano rarely lives up to expectations. It does give us sporadic drama but it usually seems too limp and scattershot. The Blu-ray provides decent picture and audio along with a fairly informative set of supplements. This isn’t a bad thriller but it never really satisfies.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of GRAND PIANO

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